24 May: “Amazing love” … are you ready?

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
24 May 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

Welcome

This is our 10th Service @ Home – how time flies! Please get some bread & juice ready so we can take communion later on.Passover, Maundy Thursday, Last Supper, Communion
Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Facing times of change, and the unknown

Here is something Dylys sent around regarding Noah:

Have you ever thought of our situation in the light of Noah. God told him to build an ark, thankfully he was given the dimensions. Then he was told to get in food for all the family & animals that were to go into ark. How much stuff do you get? How many days? Whether or not Noah was given directions on how much food we are not told, but God was able to provide as He did for Elijah & the widow of Zarephath. Anyway, Noah did all asked of him & went into the ark. God shut the door. They had no idea when it started to rain how long they would be there. They could not go anywhere or had any idea where they were. God knew & planned for it just as we have no idea how long this virus is going to last. Only He knows. We do know that just like Noah, when this is all over, things will not be the same. I pray that we will not be the same, that we will be better people than when it started.

(PTL & thank you Dylys).

Worship

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music

Word

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

1 John 3:1

John sounds very excited, as he should do, speaking about God’s great love, yet again! The word “love” appears around 57 times in his gospel (more than the other 3 gospels combined) & 46 times in this, his first epistle (your homework this week is to find them all!), 46 times in 5 short chapters (chapter 1 is very short with only 10 verses!). John defines not only the activity of God as love, meaning God loves (full stop!). But also as the very nature of God: “God is love!” e.g.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: he sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him”

1 John 4:8-9; cf. John 3:16

Note, again without planning to, we are confronted by the Lord’s second coming! For here, John is referring to the new birth, we are now “children of God”, and in the next verse he is referring to this and the  second coming:

 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as He is”

1 John 3:2

And he has done the same in the preceding verses:

“And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him

1 John 2:28-29

Jesus is coming again and we are God’s children (1 John 2:28-29); We are His children and Jesus is coming again (1 John 3:1-2). Such gives the impression of completeness and begs the question, “are we ready?”. And right there in the centre is this, that God has lavished His love upon us. The word for lavish is rarely used in the NT but it is appropriate here when describing God’s love. Such is consistent with other Scriptures:

  • “For God so loved the world …” (John 3:16);
  • “But because of his great love for us, God … made us alive with Christ …” (Ephesians 2:4-5);
  • “Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Next week we will be looking at how we should have no fear as the Day approaches because perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Suffice to say is that we can be confident because in our minds, our intellect, we can read of His lavish love for us as in 1 John 3:1. Then we can look at the cross which is a demonstration of God’s great love for this lost world. Furthermore, however, we can  look to that “inner subjective certainty that God does love us” (Moo) that experience that took place in our inner beings, summed up in Romans 5:5: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Here the two verbs tell us that the Spirit of God has been given once for all (aorist tense) and the love of God can still be experienced in full flood (perfect tense) – (based on J D. G. Dunn).

It is very important, firstly, that we realise how much the Father loves us; then to continually receive and remain in that love; and finally, reciprocate that love by loving God and loving others; Realise, Receive, Remain and Reciprocate.

We need to realise how much the Father loves us by, for example, meditating on Scriptures like today’s text and the many that speak of God’s great love for us. We should deal with any thinking to the contrary, and keep believing that God loves us with a lavish love by looking to the cross. But it’s not enough to know it in our minds, we need to receive this love, remain in this love, and then to reciprocate this love:

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”

Ephesians 5:1-2

Here, the adjective ‘beloved,’ “particularly referred to an only child to whom the parents had devoted all their love … and because the child had received so much love, the child had the security of being loved and thus was contented” (Hoehner). Are we content in this lavish love of God? In our relationship with Him? Is that relationship becoming more and more intimate as the weeks, months, years pass by?

I would like to introduce another example from the book, “Great Commandment Principle” by David Ferguson.

This concerns a phone call he received from Alan who was at his wits end with the major sibling rivalry between his two sons, Ricky (12 years of age) and Jeremy (10 years of age). They were Christians, who enjoyed attending Kids Church, but at home, “they constantly yell at each other and try to hurt each other.”

David Ferguson asked Alan “How long has it been since you spent a block of quality time with Rick. When was the last time he had your undivided attention, doing something with you he wanted to do?” He asked the same question of him concerning Jeremy. Alan was silent on both answers. He was then advised to invest some quality time with both of them separately, doing some fun things that they wanted to do, one this Saturday morning, the other next Saturday morning.

Four months later, Alan and David met up: “It worked … I’ve been spending time with Rick and Jeremy individually, and they’re getting along better than ever. They even apologised to each other. The arguing and antagonism is going away. And I really enjoy being with my sons again.”

David Ferguson makes the point: “Alan had been so busy he failed to communicate his love to those closest to him … as the boys’ deep need for their dad’s loving attention was met, they were better able to act on what they knew was right .. Alan learned love first then discipline … the model of our heavenly Father: “He disciplines those He loves” (Heb. 12:6). Such can be applied to our relationship with our Heavenly Father!

We have an example in Scripture of sibling tension which seems to back up the message above. Mary is spending quality time at the feet of Jesus, listening to His every word. Martha is stressed out with all the preparations she thinks is required of her. Jesus has to inform her that Mary has chosen the better portion and it will not be taken away form her. The lesson – we should never be too busy to sit at Jesus’ feet and bask in His lavish love!

How many of us Christians get stressed out by working so much for the Lord but actually Jesus is not requiring that which we are doing? The worst moment I had as a Church Minister was when someone was telling me about the tragic death of her husband and I fell asleep in the middle of it (it was around the same period that I fell asleep at the Altar Rail in a Church of England communion service having just received the bread. The vicar had to wake me up so I could receive the wine when he next came around with it). This woman was very gracious (her love covered a multitude …) and she happened to be a nurse and said she would forgive me if I went to the doctor’s for a check-up because she thought I might have Narcolepsy. The doctor concluded I was working far too many hours: “The main obstacle to love for God is service to God” (Henri Nouwen). For sure, Jesus worked very hard and there were many demands upon Him, but one thing He never failed to do was to spend quality time with His ‘Abba’, Father, and bask in the love of the one who delighted in Him, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And we are His beloved children in whom He has lavished His love and poured out His Spirit! So enjoy!

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love”

John 15:9

Amen.

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, we thank you that you love us with an amazing, lavish and abundant love. Lord, it’s not only something we know intellectually, but it is a reality that goes deep down to the depth of our beings, and is based on the incontrovertible fact that Christ died for us. Thank you for the gift of Your Spirit and again, for the death of Your beloved Son in our place, and for this, as we sang earlier: I am His and He is mine – Bought with the precious blood of Christ, we give you our praise worship and thanks.

Father, we pray that during this pandemic, many, many people throughout the world will come to know about and experience your lavish love. Lord that the nations may be transformed, that as Dylys mentioned, we may be all different for the better after this. Lord comfort all those who are mourning the loss of loved ones.

Father we are seeing so many things taking place that remind us that the Second coming of Your Son draws near. We especially pray for the millions of people who have been evacuated in India and Bangladesh devastated by the Cyclone Amphan. Lord provide shelter from the storm. Be their refuge. May they come to know you whom to know is life eternal, in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.

Communion

Choose a reading from either:

  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-32
  • Matthew 26:17-30
  • Mark 14:12-25
    or
  • Luke 22:7-20.

Minister the bread and wine with the words: “The body of Jesus given for you”; “The blood of Jesus shed for you”